CoWorking: Collaboration, Configuration and Considerations

This guest blog post was written by Meghan Doherty of BLDUP.

Elisif_20190130_3367The Coworking industry grew 50% between 2016 and 2018 and the variety of options within this market segment is staggering. Boston is no exception, currently, there are around 2.3 million square feet of coworking space in Boston and Cambridge. Last week NAIOP Massachusetts hosted a lively panel discussion covering all things coworking. The panel was moderated by Kristin Blount of Colliers with guests Jessica Hughes of Tishman Speyer, Bryan Koop of Boston Properties, Karina Silvester of Gensler, and Craig Robinson of WeWork.

Aaron Jodka, Chief Economist/Director of Research at Colliers International set the stage for the panel by providing some stats on coworking in Boston and around the globe. While Boston has one of the fastest coworking markets in the country, London and NYC have the largest total markets with WeWork as the single largest tenant in each market. Jodka and his research team certainly expect coworking to continue to grow while lenders in capital markets determine how best to handle deals involving coworking spaces.

As the market grows, traditional office landlords are finding ways to get into the coworking game. Jessica Hughes & Brian Koop discussed how their companies are moving into the coworking space by transforming some of their limited vacant space into a coworking option. Tishman Speyer’s coworking product, Studio, will focus on hospitality and tenant service. Their first foray into this space just opened at Rockefeller Center in NYC with the next location coming to 125 High Street in Boston. Tishman Speyer is working with Gensler on the fitouts for these spaces to ensure a high quality of design.

Boston Properties has transformed a floor of the Prudential Center into Flex – their version of coworking, which is less about shared space and more about more flexible lease terms and ready-to-occupy space. Koop told the crowd the new space has been very popular, being fully leased in its first 1-2 months. As Koop mentioned, the average lifespan of a company is getting shorter and the market is moving away from the “long and strong” leases of old. The goal of Flex is to cater to clients looking for leases in the 1-5 year range.

WeWork, now the We Companies, has been the leader in the space and continues to grow their brand across the globe with locations now in 100 cities. Craig Robinson, WeWork’s new Global Head of Powered by We Services, discussed some of the stats behind the company’s mission to “Create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living”. Generally, 85% of employees are not engaged and around 51% are on the lookout for another job. Employers are finally beginning to realize that the future of work is going to be measured by how people feel and not by the old standards of productivity. Many Fortune 500 companies are already getting ahead of this trend with over 150 of them signed on as WeWork Enterprise members. Enterprise services allow these large companies the ability to offer more creative environments, the flexibility to have offices in multiple cities and the freedom to grow to new markets.

From a design point of view, Karina Silvester of Gensler discussed the broad variations of coworking space. Within this spectrum, there are a few common factors including the need for lots of flexibility along with varied activity-based workstations.  Gensler has designed numerous coworking spaces both large and small including the new Reebok headquarters in Boston. For their new space, Reebok wanted a more open plan/flexible space instead of the numerous small offices they had in the past. As Karina also pointed out “the desire to cowork will extend to digital realms as people are working all the time.”

The panelists agreed the coworking model is here to stay and even in the event of a downturn flexibility will prove important. WeWork continues to diversify its portfolio and offerings and other commercial landlords are following suit as the market shifts. Employee expectations are changing and to attract and retain top talent, employers and in turn, landlords are moving to this flexible, community space.Podcast_Ep1

Can’t get enough coworking? Craig, Karina, and Kristin continue their discussion on The Big Dig, BLDUP & NAIOP’s new CRE podcast. Listen now!

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